Friday, December 30, 2011

Paperback of my current novel is discounted on Amazon!

The mysterious gods of Amazon have decreed that, for some unknown period, my science fiction novel Twin-Bred is on sale on Amazon -- marked down from $12.99 to $9.35. Time to take the plunge, y'all!...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some Favorite Reads from 2011

Now that Twin-Bred has made two lists of favorite 2011 reads :-), it seems only right that I "pay it forward" and post a list of my own. Mine will include both 2011 releases and books I read for the first time in 2011.

In no particular order, here are a few books I read this year and greatly enjoyed. The first two were released in 2011.

--Doc by Mary Doria Russell. I have loved every book except one by this author (the one being Dreamers of the Day). Her science fiction novel The Sparrow may be my favorite novel of any genre or type, from any era. I'm delighted that I loved Doc as well.

Doc is historical fiction, dealing with the early days of John ("Doc") Holliday. I learned a great deal about characters with whom most of us (in the U.S. at least) are somewhat familiar, and about others in the Earp circle. As usual for Russell, the writing is beautiful and the portrayal of the characters often deeply moving. There is one long and stylistically unusual passage, about how things might have gone if one event had been different, that I particularly cherish in memory.

--These is My Words by Nancy Turner. Also historical fiction -- and yes, this and science fiction are probably my favorite genres. . . . This novel purports to be the diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, Arizona pioneer, written from 1881 to 1901. While the events described are not unrelieved tragedy, this account in other hands could have been leaden and depressing. It is, instead, inspirational, uplifting, and often very funny.

--Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon. This science fiction novel was published in 2003, but I had never encountered it before this month. Like my debut novel Twin-Bred, it concerns issues in communicating with the indigenous sentient species on another planet. I recommend it for its handling of those issues and of the alien species itself, but even more for the evolution of the main character, Ofelia. It's a delight to see her come into her own.

--Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge. More science fiction published in 2003 -- a good year, it seems. . . . I'm going to be lazy and suggest that you look it up on Amazon for plot info. The plot, for me, was secondary. I loved the relationships between characters, and Eskridge's enviable gift for just the right amount of vivid and original description.

--Wild Seed by Octavia Butler. Butler apparently died in 2006, but somehow I missed the news until recently. Readers of science fiction will greatly miss her. This is my favorite of several related books, eventually published together under the title From Seed to Harvest. It involves two very unusual and formidable people who meet and develop a relationship as unique as they are. One of them, in particular, is in many ways very unsympathetic -- and yet, we sympathize.

That's all for now. I may add a few more in a subsequent post. (Maybe if Twin-Bred shows up on any more end-of-year lists. :-) )

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Old purchase link for Twin-Bred on Kindle defunct -- new link...

For some reason or other, Amazon has switched the URL for purchasing the Kindle edition of Twin-Bred. The one I've distributed far and wide no longer works. :-(  Here's the new one....

Merry Whatever (or, our crazy holiday season)

My parents were Jewish refugees from Hitler's Europe. Neither had had a strongly religious upbringing. Both were intent on assimilating into American life as thoroughly as possible. The result: my brother and I had Christmas trees. Note the plural: on at least one occasion, when each of us fell in love with a different tree, we came home with both.

Over time, my mother grew increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of celebrating Christmas. I recall her suggesting, "Couldn't we just decorate a branch?" My father, on the other hand -- an avowed atheist -- has a sentimental fondness for Christmas. He believes people are nicer to each other at this time of year. He also enjoys Christmas lights: when I lived in Los Angeles, where my parents live, we used to drive around and look at them one evening every year. I remember him working in his home office (he was a workaholic, and retired reluctantly at age 80 due to health problems) with Christmas carols playing on his portable tape deck.

My husband (the Hoosier Gadfly ) was raised a Christian, and became an agnostic (or by some definitions an atheist) in his teens. He is also something of a Grinch where Christmas is concerned, viewing it as an inconvenient commercial creation. He converted to Judaism prior to marrying his first wife (with the assistance of an unusually lenient rabbi).

So here we are, married and raising two daughters. What to do about the holidays?

I wanted my children to have the fun of decorating a tree and seeing presents piled around it on a festive holiday morning. But like my mother, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with celebrating Christmas as such. Nor was my husband thrilled with the idea. But then, the holiday tree wasn't originally a Christian notion -- the Christians borrowed it, and the timing of their festival, from pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice. Problem solved! We have a Solstice tree, and open presents on Solstice morning.

But we are Jewish, ethnically (in my case) and tribally, if not as a matter of religious belief. Moreover, my husband and I appreciate the roots of Chanukah as a celebration of the freedom to believe as one chooses. (My husband, a self-taught expert in military history, also enjoys the David vs. Goliath aspects of the Maccabees' victory over Syrian forces.) So we also celebrate Chanukah. We try to limit ourselves to small presents on each of the eight nights, as closer to Jewish tradition. (Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday, and if not for the influence of Christmas, it would involve no gifts greater than candy or small coins.)

So is Christmas out of the picture entirely? Well, no. Many years ago, my husband's mother sent the girls personalized Christmas stockings. It seems a shame not to use them. So: stocking stuffers on Christmas morning as well.

And sometimes, as I'm driving around in December, I sing a carol or two.